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    Prokaryotic dissolution of sulfide minerals

    Jones, Sarah Elizabeth (2022) Prokaryotic dissolution of sulfide minerals. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    Sulfide minerals are a source of high-value metals such as copper, however, traditional methods of extracting metals from sulfide minerals are costly and energy intensive. Bioleaching offers a low-input method of metal extraction, which works by exploiting the sulfur and iron metabolisms of acidophilic prokaryotes to break down ore. In this thesis, properties of sulfide minerals were investigated, as well as the mechanisms underlying their breakdown in the presence of the naturally-occurring SC3 bioleaching consortium. SC3 is a group of acidophilic prokaryotes enriched from the Skouriotissa copper mine in Cyprus. The consortium includes bacteria (Leptospirillum ferrodiazotrophum, Acidithiobacillus spp., and one member of the Rhodospirillales) and archaea (Ferroplasma spp., and the Thermoplasmatales member “G-plasma”). Meta-omics techniques were used to explore metabolism genes expressed during bioleaching of chalcopyrite and a low-grade copper ore from SC3’s native environment (Phoukassa ore). Geochemical analyses demonstrated significant differences in mineral breakdown in the presence of the consortium compared to abiotic conditions. In the presence of these sulfide minerals, SC3 expressed genes associated with iron and sulfur metabolism, potentially indicating a mechanism behind enhanced mineral breakdown. The results represent the first RNA-seq studies of iron and sulfur metabolism genes in a naturally occurring bioleaching consortium. Additionally, some species in the consortium possesed and were expressing putative sulfur metabolism genes previously unknown in their respective species. An updated model of the mechanisms behind chalcopyrite breakdown and a novel model of Phoukassa ore breakdown were produced. The consortium did not grow on the primary antimony mineral, stibnite. To improve the background understanding of this poorly studied mineral, the first comprehensive dataset of trace elements in stibnite was obtained using WDS-EPMA, LA-ICP-MS, μXRF, and μXANES analyses. By combining techniques from the fields of geochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology, this thesis creates an improved understanding of sulfide mineral breakdown.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2022 15:48
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:57
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/50256
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.18743/PUB.00050256

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